Natural Wonders…

Natural Wonders…

Have You Ever Wondered?

Hiking around these mountains there’s all sorts of things in nature that just seem designed to boggle mind. Have you ever wondered…

1. Why is your pine tree foaming at the mouth in the rain?? Don’t be alarmed, it doesn’t need rabies shots!

This foam is caused by the formation of a crude soap on the bark from fatty acids in pine sap/resin. Over a drought a mix of sap salts and acids accumulates and coats the bark surface to form the basics of a rough detergent.

When it rains, these ingredients mix with the water and start sudsing up. The froth (foam) is from the agitation of the mixture as it runs down the rough bark during its flow toward the ground.

So it’s a perfectly natural thing when a pine suds up in the rain- although if it does so excessively, it may indicate that there is some insect or other damage that is causing it to “bleed” more sap.

3. Why are there sticks walking around at the bottom of the stream?

Next time you’re down by the creek in the summer take a look at the bottom of the small pools and you’ll see a collection of small sticks that seem to be crawling along against the current.

These little guys are caddisfly larvae. They are sheltered by a shell of pebbles, bark and other debris that they have built-up and “glued” in place around them with a form of silk that they excrete. It’s a great protection and camouflage all at once. Some types of caddisfly not only form shells with the silk, but also make nets in order to collect food and build hideaways.

2. Do you know how to tell who ate your pinecone? Lots of critters like to munch away at pine cones to fatten them up for the winter, but each has a distinctive way of chowing down.


You can always tell where a squirrel has eaten lunch, since they leave a clean pine cone ‘core’ (like an apple core!) and a big pile of stripped pine scales on the ground behind them. (Didn’t their mom ever teach them to clean up?)

Woodpeckers and many other of our feathered friends also peck away at pinecones. They use their pointy beaks to pull out the pine scales, one by one. This leaves a ragged, “pokey” edge (the scales of cones eaten by squirrels have clean-cut edges because of their sharp teeth).

So next time you’re out and about and you run into a strange natural phenomenon (or just something you’ve always wondered about), take the time to do the research. There’s almost always a fascinating answer that can help you understand more about natural patterns around you- and it’s great hiking trivia!

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